God has created the human being with brain and thinking faculty. He has commanded His creation to use the faculty with reasoning to reach His image. This is the mission of human life. Science is a recent boon God has bestowed upon mankind. Science with reasoning becomes the capital of the society. Spirituality is a special quality God has given to the human being. The duty of the human being is to discover it and use it for the benefit of all. In whatever field we work, be it science, technology, medicine, politics, policing, theology, religion or judiciary, we have to remain in the service of the common man whose well being is central to all human knowledge and endeavour.
The Present Condition
Even while the above is the main focus of human life we find that our nation is facing loss of confidence in itself, at various levels. There is lack of tolerance for others' religion, faith and philosophy or viewpoints; there is lack of harmony; there is lack of respect for moral, ethical and cultural values and there is lack of sensitivity to poverty and inequality. Womanhood is not given its rightful place. There are various social problems like lack of employment opportunities and the resultant rise in crime and other social evils like addiction to drugs etc. Thus there are various forms of violence spreading in the country. While science and technology and economic growth would help in solving some of these problems, it is possible to manage these complex forces to the benefit of humanity only when the dimension of spirituality is embedded in human knowledge and efforts.
Dimensions of Spirituality
Every religion has a central component - spirituality driven by compassion and love. Rationality and logic are intrinsic to science and spirituality. A spiritual experience is the goal of a deeply religious person whereas a major discovery or an invention is the goal of a scientific mind. If both the aspects are unified, amalgamated in our own patterns, we can transcend to that level of thinking, in which unity is a cohesive concept. Then the enlightenment of citizenship will take place. For this environment, the two major components — Science and Spirituality have to interact. A Peace prayer can be the foundation for both.
"Oh Almighty, create thoughts and actions in the minds of the people of the nation so that they live united.
Oh Almighty, bless the people to take a path of life with righteousness as righteousness gives the strength of character.
Help all religious leaders of the country to give strength to the people to combat the divisive forces.
Guide the people to develop an attitude to appreciate different viewpoints and ways of lives and transform enmity among individuals, organizations and nations, into friendliness and harmony.
Embed the thought 'Nation is bigger than the Individual' in the minds of the leaders and people.
Oh God, bless the people to work with perseverance to transform the country into a peaceful and prosperous nation."
Spiritual Component of Religion
In our country, certain regions are presently being subjected to tremendous stress due to violence in body and mind. If we study the history of India over 3000 years, we will find that the country has always stood for peace. It worked for peace; it prayed for peace to live in peace. But these days, peace seems to be endangered due to societal dynamics described briefly earlier. So, how does one bring back peace? Paradoxically, the T in us wants peace. Nevertheless, to get peace one has to first get rid of the T and 'me' as per our scriptures. This may be a tough proposition. For in virtually every sentence, every thought we are dictated by T and 'me'. As said, if we remove"I" and "me" the ego will vanish. When the ego vanishes, hatred fades away. When hatred goes away, violence in mind and body will disappear. Therefore, peace comes when you forsake "I" and "Me". The spiritual goal of every religion is indeed violence free individual in mind and body and thereby a peaceful society. Removal of poverty is one of the components for realizing peace.
Removal of Poverty
We realize that the 300 million young citizens who are below 20 years of age in India want peace, prosperity, happiness and safety. It is our responsibility as religious and spiritual leaders to carry out this mission of removal of poverty from our people. Fortunately, there is a road map to go to the India 2020 of our national dream. That entails working intensively on five mportant areas that have been identified. These are agriculture and food processing, education and healthcare, information and communication technology, infrastructure development including networking of rivers and providing urban amenities in rural areas. If the villages prosper, the states prosper; if the states prosper, India can prosper. Such a network of prosperity is extremely important to realize the vision of the nation. Removal of poverty means addressing several related elements like removal of illiteracy and providing good governance as it is vital to ensure that funds allotted for the poor and the earnings by the poor people are not frittered away in various forms of social evils like corruption. This is where making of an enlightened citizen cornes in. This aquires a moral, ethical and spiritual dimension. Therefore another component for prosperity is religious and spiritual partnership. We have considered how this partnership can be developed.
Religion a beautiful partner in the Nation's prosperity
Religions are like exquisite gardens, places full of surpassing beauty and tranquility, like sacred groves filled with beautiful birds and their melodious songs. Religions are beautiful gardens, but they are islands. They are enchanting islets, veritable oases for the soul and the spirit. But they are islands nevertheless. If we can connect all these islands with love and compassion, in a 'garland project', we will have a peaceful, happy and prosperous India in front of us. Universal truths embodied in each religion are very similar and they will help to form the bridge thus reinforcing basic unity. Another fact of today is that the intellectual gap between the opinion maker class and the masses is rather large. The removal of the gap is best done by spreading knowledge and increasing the knowledge base of every citizen in all vital aspects of their lives. As the number of enlightened citizens increases, the ability to cope with and transform problems also increases. In order to achieve this, in addition to concentrating on education of the youth, there is also need for continual education of adult population and senior citizens on values of lives and about the basic spiritual unity of all religions. Education and intellectual activities are vital. In addition these values have to be reinforced in every citizen through specific projects, which can bring people together, irrespective of their social levels or religious beliefs.
In order to do so we resolve to undertake the following projects and activities.
Project 1 : Celebration of inter—religious festivals.
Project 2 : Multi—religious projects
Project 3 : Education in and with the ambience of unity of religions.
Project 4 : Inter—faith dialogue.
Project 5 : National level independent and autonomous organisation managed by religious and spiritual leaders as well as scholars and enlightened citizens.
Every month in all parts of India there can be a multi-religious gathering to convey the core message attempted in the prayer of peace and about the basic truths contained in various religions. Such a prayer should be preceded by prayers from all religions practiced in that part of the country by respective religious and spiritual leaders in the presence of the people. Each month the day selected could be a holy day from one religion: Islam, Hindu, Christianity, Sikh, Parsi, Jain, Buddhist etc. Regular conduct of such meetings by all religious leaders and people from different religions respecting holy days of other religions will send a powerful message. If possible such gatherings can take place at the religious places where all persons from other religions also can gather on that day. People should also exchange pleasantries and sweets during these meetings, as is the practice in some parts of the country where unity of minds prevails. In addition, in order to spread the message of equality to everybody on that day a 'langa? (community kitchen and eating) can be arranged so that all people eat common food sitting side by side.
How to organize these? We believe that, if all the religious and spiritual groups build strong connectivity between their own beautiful islands of happiness and solace, it is possible to turn these monthly meetings into mass movements for respecting each other's rituals, ways of life or view points. It will bring harmony and love. Peace and happiness will follow.
So far, religious groups have taken many efforts towards the removal of poverty and the accruing misery, in large or small scale, but in isolation. We will launch additionally a number of multi-religious projects in education, healthcare and water supply as well as for generating entrepreneurship and employment, to help the poor people. People will see for themselves that multiple religions are working together for common good. These efforts will elevate religions in the minds of the people and the nation will benefit.
All religious educational institutions operating in different parts of the country should enroll children from other religions in certain proportions and imbibe values such as religious tolerance, righteousness. The real purpose and the unity of religions should be embedded in the minds of the students. These children who are the pillars of tomorrow, will foster a sense of peace and amity between themselves and for others. Simple exercises to reinforce positive thinking can also attempted. In addition to these, specially designed value based educational material should be generated so that they are supplied in a large scale to the children. Attempts should also be made for large-scale dissemination of these through various forms of media. It may not be necessary to begin an exercise to generate these materials, as a large number of them are available in India and abroad. It maybe necessary to search for them and shape them to suit our specific needs.
In addition to the above projects impinging directly on common people and citizens, it is also necessary to have a continual Inter-Faith-Dialogue between the religious and spiritual heads as well as scholars. This dialogue can address, among other things, minimum common code between religions, methods of creating congenial atmosphere for various religions, solutions for some of the burning problems of the society etc.
Proceedings of and conclusion from such an Inter Faith Dialogues can be widely disseminated among people through various electronic and print media. Models for these Dialogues exist in some other countries as well. Maximum benefit may be derived from such knowledge sharing in addition to finding our own unique methods.
The religious and spiritual leaders came to unanimous conclusion that in order to pursue the above in a sustained manner for achieving speedy results, it is essential to set up a national level independent and autonomous organization managed by religious and spiritual leaders as well as scholars and enlightened citizens. This organization inter-alia, will train persons in various essential aspects of different religions, in methods of spreading love and compassion among people, in removing hatred as well as in the basic theory and practice of non-violence. This organization being an independent entity will also become a focal point and a catalytic agent for organizing the other projects listed above and in extending necessary infrastructure for the expansion of the efforts into a national mass movement
On the whole, the congregation of spiritual and religious leaders came to the conclusion that with the above five key elements the "GARLAND PROJECT" for "Unity of Minds" and for creating "Enlightened Citizens" in India and eventually in the world, can be successful if we start taking action in all earnestness after this "SURAT SPIRITUAL DECLARATION" made on 15th October 2003 in the presence of Hon'ble President of India.
India can emerge as a Developed Nation by 2020 with its civilizational heritage and value systems spreading harmony and peace to the whole world. This "Unity of Minds" can be achieved even while keeping intact the rich diversity of rites, rituals, ideas and beliefs amongst us and blending them with modern knowledge and skills.
Signed in the presence of H.H. Acharya Mahaprajna at Surat
Name of Spiritual leaders/Scholars
Shri Balgangadharanatha Swamiji
Dr. Homi B. Dhalla
Bishop Dr. Thomas Dabre
Sadvi Pramukha Kanakprabha
Jagadguru Sri Sri Sri Sivaratri Desikendra Mahaswami
Rev. Stanislaus Fernandes
Rev. Syed Muhammad Jilani Ashraf
Rev. Ezeikal Isaac Malekar
Prince Huzaifa Mohyiuddin
Brahma Kumari Sudesh Didi
Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki
Ven. Rahul Bodhi
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan